long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Illusion of scholarship - The Interpreter and Mormon's Codex (part 5)

Some people are wondering why I've been focusing on Mormon's Codex as an example of the illusion of scholarship published by M2C intellectuals.

One reason: Mormon's Codex has imprinted M2C on the minds of intellectuals throughout the Church.

The M2C citation cartel usually follows the example of Mormon's Codex by assuming an outcome that supports M2C, thereby creating a bias. Then they write articles to confirm that bias.

This is the antithesis of scholarship, although it's nicely dressed up with citations and some form of "peer review" that seems designed mainly to make sure the publication also confirms the M2C bias.

The latest example appeared the other day in our favorite M2C journal (delightfully named The Interpreter). The article is titled "Joseph Smith: The World’s Greatest Guesser (A Bayesian Statistical Analysis of Positive and Negative Correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya)."

Readers have asked me about it, so I'm commenting a little in this post.

I really, really wanted to like this article because, on its face, it appears to be a new approach to important questions. 

The authors are wonderful scholars, working in important fields, making tremendous contributions to society, etc. I greatly respect and admire their work in their professional work and everyone should acknowledge that work and thank them for it.

I hoped the article would live up to its own scientific premise and ideals.

Sadly, though, the authors have been taken in by the M2C hoax. 

They accepted Mormon's Codex on its face, apparently without noticing that the entire book (and M2C generally) is an exercise in circular reasoning and bias confirmation, designed to persuade members of the Church that the prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah and that we should follow intellectuals instead of the prophets.

Consequently, the authors wrote over 100 pages (plus footnotes) to validate M2C. The M2C citation cartel now has another citation they can insert in their citation loop.

The article purports to apply Bayesian statistics to evidence cited in Dr. Michael Coe's book titled The Maya. It sounds great. But when we read the actual article, we find a highly subjective interpretation of 131 pieces of evidence that support the Book of Mormon vs. 18 pieces of evidence that don't.

M2C intellectuals try to persuade members of the Church that the prophets are wrong about Cumorah because their interpretation of the Book of Mormon describes Mayan society, not the society of the Hopewell and Adena civilizations in what is now the Midwestern and Eastern U.S.

This article purports to provide statistical support for the M2C hoax, but instead it is just another example of the circular reasoning and bias confirmation typical of the M2C citation cartel.

As a result, in my view, this article contributes to the censorship and obfuscation practiced by the M2C citation cartel.

You can read the original article here.


Much of the article features the illusion of scholarship. We have credentials. We have citations. We have source checking, editing, and all the rest.

We even have peer review, as verified in one of the commentsL I can assure you that both Mesoamericanists and statisticians provided peer review on the article.

Those with long experience reading the work of the M2C citation cartel, going back to FARMS and its intellectual progeny, including the Interpreter, Book of Mormon Central and FairMormon, are long accustomed to this type of peer review.

It's merely peer approval. 

This is the type of peer approval that led me to discuss this article on my InterpreterPeerReviews blog, which you can read here:


Another reason why I discussed the article there is that the authors' primary response to critics is their assertion that the critics haven't read the article. At my review, you can see I not only read the article but commented directly on their own language.

This excerpt from the article looks promising, doesn't it?

These practices of cherry-picking or overweighting/underweighting evidence cannot be allowed in scientific enquiry. They are neither rational nor honest. We must consider all relevant evidence if we hope to make honest, rational decisions. Also, no piece of evidence has infinite weight. There are always limitations on the strength of any individual piece of evidence. Assuming a piece of evidence has infinite weight is equivalent to saying the question is already decided and is therefore beyond the scope of further rational, honest enquiry.

Sounds great. Finally, a piece of rational, honest inquiry published in the Interpreter.

However, the entire article is based on the preliminary assumption that the question of Book of Mormon geography is already decided, because... Mormon's Codex!

On p. 80 (5th full paragraph of the article), the authors write this:

There are strong reasons for suspecting ancient Mesoamerica as the physical location of Book of Mormon events in the New World.8

Footnote 8 cites exactly one reference.

8. John L. Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex: An Ancient American Book (Salt Lake City: Desert Book, 2013).

With Mormon's Codex as the foundation, it's no surprise that the M2C peer reviewers signed off on this article.

Typical of M2C publications, this article contradicts the authors' own standards. It is not merely cherry picking; it is orchard picking.

If the article had merely engaged in the predictable M2C confirmation bias, I would ignore it. By now, we all know what we get when we read material published by the M2C citation cartel:

- It will censor, ignore, or explicitly repudiate the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.

- It will resort to a series of logical fallacies that please and comfort fellow M2C intellectuals and their followers.

- It will persuade exactly no one but it will fortify those who still believe in the M2C hoax.

The difference with this article is the claims they made about the North American setting (as opposed to the Mesoamerican setting).

Readers here know that I don't reject any theory of geography that has Cumorah in New York because the prophets have explicitly, persistently, and consistently taught only two things:

1. Cumorah (Mormon 6:6) is in New York.

2. We don't know for sure where the rest of the events took place.

The M2C intellectuals and their followers have attempted to confuse people by conflating these two teachings, but both points are crystal clear.

I'm fine with people believing whatever they want. I just want them to make informed decisions, which is why I oppose the censorship practiced by the M2C citation cartel.

(I also happen to think the Mesoamerican theory is unlikely and that the North American setting, which I described in Moroni's America, is the best fit for the text. I think the New York Cumorah is consistent with archaeology, anthropology, geology, geography, etc. But I don't claim prophetic or church support for my ideas; instead, I seek to support what the prophets have taught.)


With laudable candor, the authors explained some of their bias in one of the comments:

Not to discourage you from a worthy effort, but it turns out that Reverend Smith’s book “View of the Hebrews” drew a lot of its information from the mound builder culture.
If you delve into the details of our analysis, you will see that the facts summarized in Dr. Coe’s book do not correspond well with Reverend Smith’s book, but the Book of Mormon does.
Thus I would say by extension that the Indian cultures of eastern North America, including their religion, geography, technologies, etc, are unlikely to have been the setting for the Book of Mormon.
This is a predictable M2C claim, but it contradicts the evidence.

Ethan Smith published View of the Hebrews in 1823. Most readers here know the history of that book and its connection to the Book of Mormon.

The issue of Book of Mormon geography boils down to the point that the M2C scholars follow Ethan Smith, not Joseph Smith.

M2C is based on View of the Hebrews and the anonymous articles in the Times and Seasons.

The Pratt brothers (Orson and Parley), along with Benjamin Winchester and others, got their ideas of Book of Mormon geography from Ethan Smith. This is the line of thinking the M2C intellectuals have chosen to follow, as modified and restricted to a "limited geography" in the late 1800s by RLDS scholars.

The M2C intellectuals and their followers reject what Joseph taught. When he wrote the Wentworth letter in Nauvoo, Illinois, USA, Joseph explicitly deleted all of Orson Pratt's speculation about the descendants of Lehi in Latin America and replaced it with the declaration that the remnant are the Indians who now inhabit this country.

Joseph never once taught or implied that the Book of Mormon took place anywhere but in what is now the United States. That makes sense, given the New York Cumorah.

But View of the Hebrews taught that all the indigenous people in the Americas were Israelites.

For example, View of the Hebrews referred to Humbolt (Alexander Humboldt) by writing "Our author proceeds to describe the pyramids of New Spain,--those signal Indian antiquities." p. 179. The book describes Cholula, a Mayan site occupied during Book of Mormon time frames, and then quotes Humboldt: "If it be allowed to compare with the great Egyptian monuments, it appears to have been constructed on an analogous plan."

Next, the book explains the connection. "Various authors unite, as will appear, in stating the great similarity between those Mexican pyramids, and those of Egypt. And our noted author M. Humbolt exclaims; 'We are astonished to see, in regions the most remote, men following the same model in their edifices.' This is here claimed as a great argument in favour of the Israelitish extraction of those Indians.... He [Humboldt] says; 'We have examples of theocratic forms of government in South America.'... this theocratic, partriarchal government must well accord with Israelitish tradition."

It's also true that View of the Hebrews describes the ancient works in North America. The authors of this article, however, misrepresent what Ethan Smith actually wrote. Of the ancient works in Ohio, for example, Ethan Smith wrote "These works have evinced great wars, a good degree of civilization, and great skill in fortification."

If you're interested in a more detailed analysis, see my review on the other blog.


No comments:

Post a Comment